Today in Islamophobia

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compiled by the Bridge Initiative

Each day, the Bridge Initiative aims to bring you the news you need to know about Islamophobia. This resource will be updated every weekday at approximately 11:00 AM EST.

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02 Mar 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, a new report by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the World Sikh Organization of Canada “documents the roots of the RSS movement in India and its extensive global reach, promoting far right views in various ways,” meanwhile in Denmark, the Danish parliament has rejected a far-right political party’s demand for a parliamentary debate on imposing a ban on headscarves in schools, and in India, the news regulatory body has “passed orders flagging ’anti-Muslim content’ aired by Zee News, News18, and Times Now.” Our recommended read of the day is by Liam Scott for Foreign Policy on how many Western academics who have devoted themselves to the study of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang are increasingly experiencing personal trauma and professional difficulties as they advocate and work for their detained colleagues and friends. This and more below:


Western Academics Are Fighting for Disappeared Friends in Xinjiang | Recommended Read

Joanne Smith Finley, a British expert in Uyghur studies, will never forget when she learned that her dear friend Abdurehim Heyit was detained in 2017. “When I heard he had been interned, I was absolutely distraught. I just collapsed into tears,” she said. “I was imagining awful things. I was imagining that they would break his hands. Heyit’s detention was part of the ongoing crackdown and human rights abuses in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, which have particularly targeted Uyghur intellectuals, artists, and writers. Uyghur studies scholars Elise Anderson and Timothy Grose both remember where they were when they learned that their longtime mentor and friend, the internationally acclaimed Uyghur folklorist Rahile Dawut, had disappeared in 2017. And academic Darren Byler remembers when he learned that his mentor, the famed Uyghur writer Perhat Tursun, was detained in 2018. The Western academics who have devoted their lives to the study of Uyghur society and Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is committing what the U.S. government says constitutes genocide, are experiencing personal trauma and professional difficulties at the same time as they advocate and work for their detained colleagues and friends. A sense of loss has been matched by a sense of duty. read the complete article

Amid a worsening refugee crisis, public support is high in both Australia and NZ to accept more Rohingya

Nearly one million stateless Rohingya people who fled brutal ethnic cleansing in Myanmar have been languishing in extremely congested refugee camps in Bangladesh for the past five and a half years. While the United States recently announced a resettlement program for Rohingya refugees and the UK resettled around 300 Rohingya from the camps prior to 2020 under a now-defunct scheme, this hasn’t caused even a dent in the number of people living in the world’s largest refugee camp. No other countries have accepted refugee applications from the camps, but the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has expressed optimism that a good number of Rohingya may eventually be resettled by the US and others. Since 2008, Australia has granted visas to just 470 Rohingya under its special humanitarian program – a very small number considering the extreme need. All of these refugees were accepted into the program from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries in the region. This creates a perverse incentive for Rohingya from the Bangladesh camps to get on rickety boats and make the dangerous sea journey to those countries. According to our new research, there is public support for this to happen. In surveys conducted last year, a majority of Australians and New Zealanders said they have positive views about the Rohingya and support the resettlement of more Rohingya refugees in their countries. read the complete article

Ahead of China hearing, lawmakers share 'next steps' the U.S. can take for Uyghurs

The U.S-China relationship will come under further scrutiny on Tuesday night, when a newly created House committee focused on the strategic challenge China poses holds its first hearing in prime time. It's likely to cover a lot of ground, including security concerns around TikTok and Chinese aggression over Taiwan, as NPR's Deirdre Walsh reports. "We want to make sure that we are constantly making a distinction between the party and the people," said Wisconsin GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who chairs the committee. "The threat comes from the party. We don't have a quarrel with the Chinese people, and the Chinese people are often the primary victim of CCP oppression and repression." In a wide-ranging conversation, both lawmakers shared their concerns about China — including its treatment of Uyghurs, the largely Muslim ethnic group living in the western province of Xinjiang. Authorities there are accused of rounding up hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and sending them to detention centers where they are taught Mandarin Chinese and Chinese political ideology. Detainees have reported that they were forced to work in factories and that their children were sent away to state boarding schools. In recent years as U.S.-China relations deteriorated, the U.S. has called those actions a genocide, a label that China rejects (even though its ambassador to the U.S. told NPR last year that it was re-educating Uyghurs). read the complete article

Movement out of India that 'disseminates hate' victimizes religious minority groups, report says

Canada shouldn't allow a movement out of India that "disseminates hate" and victimizes religious minority groups to entrench itself in this country, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the World Sikh Organization of Canada. The report, called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Network in Canada, documents the roots of the RSS movement in India and its extensive global reach, promoting far right views in various ways. "It's one of the most influential organizations in the world," said Steven Zhou, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. The council and the World Sikh Organization of Canada are trying to draw attention to what academics, including some in Canada, say they have witnessed for years — an increasing influence and threat from a movement closely linked to the government in New Delhi that they say promotes discrimination against minority religious groups at home and abroad. "[The RSS] poses a major challenge to Canadian commitments to human rights, to tolerance and multiculturalism," said Zhou. According to the report, the RSS is at the core of a network of groups "seeking to remake India into a country run by and for Hindus first at the expense of the country's dizzying slew of minority groups." read the complete article

United States

She's the first judge to wear a hijab on the bench in NJ. It's not her only accomplishment

Nadia Kahf, a family law attorney from Wayne, will become the next Muslim woman to serve as a state Superior Court judge in New Jersey. The New Jersey Senate voted to appoint Kahf and a dozen other people as judges on Monday. Kahf, who will be the first judge to wear a hijab on the bench, will serve in Passaic County. Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Kahf a year ago as part of a slate of 15 nominees. Muslim leaders who supported her nomination raised concerns when the process appeared to stall while others advanced. In May, 90 community leaders, including mayors, council members, school board members and leaders of the New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, signed a letter urging state Sen. Kristin Corrado to act to advance the nomination. More than 700 people also signed an online petition in support of Kahf. At her law practice in Haledon, Kahf specializes in family law and immigration. Since 2003, she has sat on the board of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization where she now serves as chairwoman. She is also the legal adviser to Wafa House, a nonprofit domestic violence and social services agency based in Clifton, and chairwoman of the Islamic Center of Passaic County. read the complete article

Muslim advocates, family raise alarm after classmate removed teen’s hijab at a Ky. school

A middle school in Hardin County suspended a Black, Muslim teen for defending herself after a white classmate allegedly tried to remove her hijab. Meanwhile, the student who advocates say initiated the altercation remained in school. The incident took place last October at James T. Alton Middle School in Vine Grove. The 14-year-old Muslim student told LPM News she was walking down a hallway at school with a couple of friends when the white student began “blocking” one of her friends from passing. “We exchanged words, they weren't pleasant. And so he didn't like what I had to say,” the Muslim student said. Adding, as they were walking away, “He came right behind me and pulled my hijab.” A hijab is a religious head covering that can signify a person’s commitment to religion and faith as well as self. The Muslim student’s mother, Kenneisha Turner Wright, watched a video of the incident without sound. She said the other student put her daughter in a vulnerable position, partially exposing her hair. read the complete article

CIA 'rectal feeding' prompts a question: Are we enemies of all mankind?

Last week in a federal courtroom at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an American physician hired by the Pentagon testified about the CIA’s use of rectal “feeding” tubes on prisoners it detained and tortured in Thailand from 2001 to 2006. The physician, Sondra S. Crosby, M.D., an expert on tortures and other trauma, described the painful repeated insertion of plastic tubes into the anal cavity of the defendant in the case, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, over a period of four years. Al-Nashiri is on trial for conspiracy to bomb the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. The hearing at which Crosby testified was ordered by the military judge when defense counsel told him the nature and extent of the torture visited upon their client by the CIA and its contractors. Crosby was given access to CIA raw notes and reports, some of which had not been seen by the investigators who produced the 2014 U.S. Senate 500-page documented study on CIA torture during the administration of President George W. Bush. The site in Thailand at which al-Nashiri was tortured was run by Gina Haspel, the future CIA Director, nicknamed by her colleagues “Bloody Gina.” The CIA infamously made videos of the torture of al-Nashiri and others which Haspel destroyed. Crosby, who was harshly critical of the CIA’s use of this internationally condemned interrogation technique, which is criminal under federal law, revealed that the CIA notes reflected that al-Nashiri, and others who received this barbaric treatment, were actually being fed nutrients via these anal tubes. She told the court that this must have been a subterfuge as there is simply no biological means to nourish a person via the person’s anal cavity. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Explained: Review of UK’s counter-terror scheme raises eyebrows

The UK’s anti-terrorism programme Prevent has raised a few eyebrows since its implementation. Launched almost a decade ago, Prevent is part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which “contains a duty on specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism,” aka Prevent duty. A review of the programme was supposed to be penned by Lord Carlile, but he was forced to step down in December 2019. Lord Carlile’s appointment for this task was deemed to be “a serious misjudgment by the secretary of state,” Yasmine Ahmed, the executive director of Rights Watch UK, said. The Guardian reported in December 2019 that “Rights Watch UK … objected to Lord Carlile because in the past he has declared his strong support for the programme, which is aimed at combating radicalisation leading to terrorism. It has become a toxic brand for many within Muslim communities, with some viewing it as a state tool for spying on them.” Lord Carlile was replaced by William Shawcross, “an author and the former chair of the Charity Commission, [who] was seen as a controversial choice to head the report when it was announced four years ago, leading to a boycott of his review by independent groups including Amnesty International,” wrote The Guardian. In his review, Shawcross continues to say that the programme should be “increasingly concerned about the growing threat from the Extreme Right,” yet adds a caveat: “But the facts clearly demonstrate that the most lethal threat in the last 20 years has come from Islamism, and this threat continues.” read the complete article

UK's 'Prevent' program legitimises racist attitudes towards Muslims

UK's anti-radicalisation strategy legitimises racist attitudes towards Muslims, while creating self-censorship in public, according to an expert, Anadolu News Agency reports. Speaking to Anadolu, Tarek Younis, a senior lecturer at the University of Middlesex in London, said the government's controversial anti-radicalisation program "Prevent" legitimises racist attitudes, especially towards Muslims. "Prevent" is the government's controversial anti-radicalisation program. There have long been calls for an independent review by opponents of the program who claim it discriminates against Muslims. "In 2015, it became a duty on public bodies to identify and report individuals they suspect might be vulnerable to radicalisation, might be vulnerable to becoming terrorists in the future," he said, adding it prompted many ethical issues such as ethics of data sharing. Younis said that, if someone asks a random person on the street whether he or she supports all programs to prevent violence, the answer will be "yes", while the right question would be "do you trust your doctor or psychiatrist to be able to distinguish whether Muslims are extremists?" "It (Prevent program) certainly legitimises racist attitudes, especially towards Muslims," noted Younis, who focuses on psychology, culture, race and religion issues. read the complete article


Denmark rejects push to debate in parliament ban on hijab in schools

The Danish government has rejected a far-right political party's demand for a parliamentary debate on imposing a ban on headscarves in schools. Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said in a written comment that the proposed ban would be contrary to Danish law and the country’s global commitments. “It is the legal assessment that the proposal to ban Islamic headscarves in primary schools cannot be implemented within the framework of the Constitution and Denmark’s international obligations,” he noted in his comment on Tuesday. Despite rejecting the far-right's proposal, the immigration minister, however, said Denmark faces “serious challenges with negative social control and oppression of young girls in certain environments.” read the complete article


Major Indian broadcaster fined by regulator over ‘anti-Muslim content’

India’s news regulatory body has raised objections against two private networks for airing programmes that allegedly targeted India’s minority Muslims. The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), which is a self regulatory body of broadcasters and is currently being headed by former Supreme Court judge AK Sikri, came down heavily on Zee News, News18 India, and Times Now and passed seven orders on Monday flagging “anti-Muslim content” aired by them. The body found Zee News had “selectively targeted” the Muslim community while broadcasting news on over population in the country, reported LiveLaw. In another order against Times Now, the body said that the channel had “wrongfully reported” that pro-Pakistan slogans were raised during a protest in Pune by banned organisation Popular Front of India. The other five orders by the NBDSA were in connection with shows hosted by News18 India anchor Aman Sharma which the body found to be objectionable and including religious undertones. The complainant referred to a show on 18 January last year in which Chopra made statements that allegedly maligned the Muslim community. “The entire premise of the show revolved around creating a negative image of the Muslim community to instigate the members of the Hindu community to develop hatred for Muslims,” the complaint said. read the complete article

The trials of an Indian witness: how a Muslim man was caught in a legal nightmare

This is how Nisar Ahmed remembers it. On 24 February 2020, at about three in the afternoon, an uproar outside his house brought him to his window. A large crowd of men was passing through Bhagirathi Vihar, his neighbourhood in north-east Delhi, chanting “Victory to Lord Ram!” and “Wake up, Hindus, wake up!”. Ahmed conferred with Asma, his wife. They decided, somewhat uncertainly, that the procession was probably harmless to Muslims like them. “It felt like the usual political sloganeering,” Ahmed recalled. Politics was politics, but this was a neighbourhood where Muslims and Hindus called one another over for chai and sat outside together late at night. That brotherhood was protection enough. If there was any disturbance, elders would settle it. Eventually the crowd came to a stop at a low bridge over the sewage canal where four roads met, a few minutes from Ahmed’s house. They put up barricades and brought out large speakers. The crowd were there to show their support for a new law that had become the focus of fierce protests and counterprotests over the previous few months. The law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), made it easier for persecuted religious minorities in south Asia to become Indian citizens – provided that they were not Muslim. As the protests against the new law escalated, members of Narendra Modi’s party did nothing to calm tensions. On 3 January, a member of the government warned Muslims that Hindus made up 80% of India’s population, while they were only 20%. Two weeks after that, government minister Anurag Thakur roused crowds at an election rally in Delhi with the slogan: “Shoot the traitors.” And on 23 February, the day before Ahmed heard the chanting men passing his house, Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader from east Delhi, told police that if they failed to remove anti-CAA protesters from Jafrabad, a neighbourhood not far from Bhagirathi Vihar, he and his supporters would take to the streets and do it themselves. Standing next to Mishra, like a bodyguard, was the deputy commissioner of police for north-east Delhi. To observers familiar with India’s grim history of communal violence, it was clear what would come next. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 Mar 2023 Edition


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